Rest assured that this has never been personal. I hope it doesn't come across that way for that is not my intent.
In my past conversations with Deutsch, he has basically been a pretty straight shooter. I disagree with their eagle "rest area" there by the HQ and few other policies that don't make sense to me and many of the 'regulars' that consider RMBS as the place we go to see birds. However, this is the COE we are talking about. These are the same people that would dam just about any river on a moments notice if it meant more federal funding and the chance to utilize heavy equipment and to dole out contracts. Perhaps it is an aside but they have been called to task for " the basis of their economic benefit projections on numerous projects". In over 25 years of watching the lack of management by the COE on such backwaters like Brickhouse Slough and even the Alton Pool areas, I've learned to be a bit more skeptical when I hear about all the bright people involved in this or that project. Like you, I think Deutsch probably is a good biologist and hopefully will right some of what I would call mistakes of the past. Then again, it is the COE. Then again, I have to give them some props because I don't think they would have installed pumps that constantly malfunction due to sand intake like the MDC has at Columbia. Mississippi and Missouri Rivers produce sand, who woulda thunk it?
Also the Least Tern Barge Project was a great idea but it came after many years of failure with Least Tern Island. Once again we have floods in the spring but they actually thought Least Terns would nest on a small piece of ground that is inundated much of the spring.
As a particular point:
The COE has allowed the large pond on Ellis Island to be overrun by the beavers. If you walked the road into that area, you would have to climb over several river beeches that the beavers have fallen. One of the trees next to the parking lot has been partially girdled and most likely will fall if we get a good wind. I don't think the tree is large enough to make a fall into the parking lot but the area sign, might be a potential 'victim'. :)
I suppose that the large pond is being allowed to "naturally progress" while the Heron Pond requires management? There was a good population of peeps in the back of the large Ellis Island pond but now there is too much water and no mud.There used to be numerous wood ducks that used that back area, but there isn't anything for them except 'loafing' water-- same with the mallards and ring bills and even hooded mergansers. It was not uncommon to see black crowned night herons actively hunting in daylight hours in and around the back area of that pond. While the Heron Pond had actively hunting ( not roosting) Kingfishers, it wasn't a rare occassion to see one on Ellis Island. It is now. It might be that the Ellis Island requires more effort to see or that it is closed between Dec 15 and March 15. Oh, sorry, the Heron Pond is off limits even longer, Oct 15 to April 15. I've never really gotten a good explanation from the COE staff on that.
Considering the topography, I can see the dome argument being possible. I also know that it doesn't take that much time for that ground to go dry( as noted sandy soil). I do wonder that the willows interfered with the "sight lines" comment. For the practicing photographers, the willows gave a backdrop that blocked the power lines etc. It also played the devil with shutter speeds in Aperture Priority mode. Also wintering ducks, geese and trumpeter swans feed on that vegetation that will be killed if I understand the 4 to 5 feet flooding idea. I do know that I can't recall not seeing a great blue heron at the Heron pond and its surroundings, even in the winter. No one will feel sorry for them because they seem to be everywhere but it seems to be a shame to 'evict' them at least twice a year.
Please don't misunderstand, I hope I'm wrong and this project works, and kudos to those that persevered, however the past actions of the COE have given me a healthy dose of skepticism.
As they say, time will tell.
----- Original Message -----
From: "David Rogles" <[log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Heron Pond, redux (very long)
Date: Sun, 18 Oct 2009 12:37:03 -0400
Heron Pond, redux
I am responding to the Heron Pond thread as a birder and as President of St. Louis Audubon. I know Mick Richardson (a smart man with a Phd. in plants; he is an international birder and very passionate about birds); I don’t know Mr. Chang, but he is obviously concerned and equally passionate. I emphasize that nothing I say is meant to be derogatory or dismissive of their concerns, many of which I have shared at different times and in different situations.
Because I am human I consider myself the smartest of men; because I am adult I try to remember my knowledge if very finite. I trust that professionals, in the course of doing their jobs, have considered all the things that I might suggest and their considerations take into account contexts of which I am completely ignorant. My suggestions are, rightly, considered elementary, even childish. Because a lot of professionals are kind people, I am rarely slapped too hard.
My response to my failings is to devise thought experiments. These are often very simple, and they quickly expose the complexity of the problem. I usually abandon the experiment when I come to realize the limits of my knowledge. For Heron Pond my thought experiment begins with a simple cereal bowl. The bowl can be sitting correctly, or it can be inverted (I call this a dome). Keeping in mind the circumference of the cereal as the edge of HP, I then think of changing the amount of cereal in the bowl and the exposed/covered areas of the inside as the possible mudflats. I ask myself what are the relevant considerations? Certainly, to name a few, seasonality of migration, need for vegetative growth (seasonal), wildlife viewing (a bowl works better than a dome-think about it in the context of a circum-navigating trail), need for habitat for resident birds (both winter residents and summer), the need for control of water regardless of weather (extends the seasonality concept), the need for the managed area to be independent of the rest of the area.
It becomes apparent that the existing HP, before the improvements, is a natural bowl. It is not independent of the rest of the area. The willows interfere with sight lines of a trail. The 4 or 5 feet difference will mostly not be used, but now, in times of high water will provide high mud flats. The bowl provides site lines unbroken around the circumference. The blinds are on skids that enable them to be moved out of harms way (and being wood, as a last resort they might float). The control structure allows water to be put in and out of HP independent of the rest of the area. When migrations requiring mudflats overlaps with migrations requiring water, then HP can be set up for mudflats and the rest of the area can be set up for water. (Think late winter ducks and very early spring shorebirds.) The willows are a stage in serial succession; with wetlands being so limited it seems silly to let the remaining wetlands convert. They must be managed.
The willows will not change anything among the non-shorebird species. Herons and Egrets don’t feed on willows, only roost. I suspect that both species travel many miles from their roosts to feed during the day-in SE MO I find them up to 30 miles from their night roost, and I can find their roost by tracking their evening travels. Kingfishers nest, I believe, in the banks of rivers and creeks. Nothing in HP is nesting habitat for Kingfishers. I think you can see where this is going-a lot of planning by very smart people went into this project. St. Louis Audubon has been agitating for some time and the Corps, to its credit, has responded magnificently. The professionals at the Corps have asked for input, we provided, things were discussed, etc. Paul Bauer’s 40-year dream, and John Solodar’s many years of volunteer work, and the willing, even eager, participation of Pat and Charlie and the others at the Corps have gifted the St. Louis area with a new, improved, birding destination.
Those that know me understand that I am passionate about birds. I am also extremely pessimistic about the long-term survival (I am thinking 30 years here) of birds. I often say that we are the last of the birders; our grandkids will not see the diversity of life we have these days. Projects like this give me some hope. I would like to see 100,000 acres of floodplain for the birds and wildlife in St. Charles Co; it is not going to happen.
St. Louis Audubon will continue to push for habitat improvement. We need help with the Little Creve Coeur project, a project which has the same concerns as Riverlands, but is strapped by a lack of cash (the County parks), leadership inertia, the politics of big money (they want Home Depots in every floodplain- I know a few birders that refuse to shop in floodplains, but we don’t make much difference in the dollars). We would like to see more opposition to the casino development next to Columbia Bottom; our VP-Conservation, Karen Meyer, and our Executive Director, Mitch Leachman have attended many meetings about this project. I welcome anyone interested in helping to contact me- visit the St. Louis Audubon website for contact information. And if you want to discuss HP, feel free to stop by Heron Pond and strike up a conversation. I will be the one with a smile on his face.
President, St. Louis Audubon Society
St. Charles Co.
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